Film viewers love an image that looks stunning, but ultimately, whether they’re conscious of it or not, visuals that bear greater meaning to the narrative and characters. Dan Gilroy’s 2014 directorial debut, “Nightcrawler,” provides striking visuals, which ultimately echo the intense story. Everything we can learn about Jake Gyllenhaal’s Lou Bloom from the dialogue is validated by the cinematography. Director of Photography Robert Elswit, pays particular attention to the smallest details, some of which we don’t even notice until it is pointed out. In “Nightcrawler,” we are shown a portrait of a dark, twisted man whose story we bear witness to, but a world he never lets us enter.
In a video essay by Jack’s Movie Reviews, we see how the camera can tell us about Bloom in his isolated state. We often see the movie’s titular “Nightcrawler” as an outsider trying to blend himself into the real world. Lou is put into focus while the world around him is blurred; he is the clearest image on the screen, the most important figure. It’s a reflection of how the protagonist views himself. The darkness that emanates from Lou’s intent and actions is reflexively shown in the lighting that surrounds him. We rarely see Lou’s face gilded in pure, even light, his face is often hidden in shadow. It’s a subtle way Gilroy is letting viewers know Lou cannot be trusted.
By the end of the film, Lou abandons the light completely, as well as the expectations others have for him. He accepts the darkness he has been painted in throughout the whole film. Gilroy says, unlike most traditional movies, that Lou’s character never really changes. His arc is that of a man living in the shadows who comes to accept it and, in the end, steps firmly inside the darkness.